Back Pain, Neck Pain

Do you Wake Up With a Stiff Low Back?

    I remember years ago waking up with a very stiff low back.  There were times that if I sat for a while, even standing up would cause my low back to feel stiff. At its worst, I would climb out of my car on my hands. The best part is I drove  Lincoln Town Car, which is huge. I went to several doctors, some sent me to physical therapy while others offered pain pills, braces, and injections. All of the doctors said that if none of those options worked I would be headed for surgery. SURGERY! I was only 42 years old. That is where my personal journey began.

  My mentors responded with use your muscle knowledge. They would laugh and say, if you figure this out, that would be amazing! Are you ready for amazing?  I never did anything that would be a trauma like falling down or lifting something that was too heavy. All I did was spread wheelbarrows of mulch. If I worked in my yard for 3-4 hours, it would take me 3-5 days to get over it. I was frustrated and could not believe that I was dealing with that much pain.

   I began to look at my body as a whole mechanical machine. I asked the questions like, how does my body balance itself,  and if a muscle on one side tightens can it affect the opposite side?Not realizing at the time how profound those questions were, but how few health care practitioners asked the same questions. I remember asking myself, How can a good ole boy from North Carolina figure this out, when highly educated people have not? The answer is, these educated people are not trained to ask those questions.

      The final answer to my pain was not my back at all. When we think about body balance, it makes total sense that if a muscle on the front side was tight, the pressure on the back side would increase. The same can be said side to side. When I was spreading mulch, I would bend over to lift the mulch with a pitchfork, turn, and spread it over the ground. To do this I had to contract the 4 muscles, quads, on the front of my thighs and contract my inner thighs. The thigh muscles attach to my pelvis and my inner thighs attach to my pubis bone. As these muscle shorten, they will pull my pelvis forward. So how does that affect my back?

  Well, by pulling my pelvis forward ,the spine in the low back will bend which will cause my body to lean slightly forward. Over a short period of time, the lean will get worse. As it got worse, I would contract my hip and low back muscles to help me stand straighter. These muscle would tire from fighting with the front muscles. This resulted in muscle spasms in my low back.

   I solved the spasms by laying on my side, grabbing my top ankle and bringing my knee back behind my torso. I stretched my inner thighs by sitting in a chair, crossing my leg, and gently press down on my knee to stretch the inner thigh.You can see these stretches on my YouTube,  The Muscle Repair Shop. Give these a try for at least 2 weeks and you will see the difference. Let me know how you are doing by leaving a comment.

Foot pain

Stop Foot Pain Without Expensive Tools

Foot pain has created an entire industry from shoes to specially trained physicians. We have blamed flat feet for arch pain. We have created arch supports and orthotics to prop up the arches which help temporarily. We have created shoes with special heel supports, arch supports and supports if you supinate or pronate. Again, a temporary fix. People are now being told to not walk barefoot, especially on hard surfaces. These are all temporary fixes as they are only addressing the symptom and not the cause.

The first thing to do is start bt understanding why the foot hurts. Rarely is the site of pain, the cause. The calf muscles control most of the movements of the feet. There are 4 calf muscles. When I was young, I thought there was only one muscle as that was how it was always presented to me. Maybe the coaches thought the same thing.

The inside calf muscle, the Plantaris, controls the height of the inside of the foot. When this muscle is short, the person will tend to walk on the outside of the foot. This can cause pain on the outside of the foot, pain in the arch, or pain in the ankle. By hitting the outside of the foot, there is a lot of pressure placed on very small bones with little fat for cushioning. On top of those issues, walking on the outside of the foot can lead to bunions, nerve pain, and calluses on the big toe. If this is happening, the shoes will wear out on the outside first.

The outside calf muscle, the Tibialis Posterior, controls the outside of the foot. If this muscle is short, the person will walk on the inside of the foot causing pain in the big toe, inside of the heel, and ankle. Over time, this will cause damage to the knee and ankle.

The 2 middle calf muscles, Soleus and Gastrocnemius, control the vertical movement of the foot. When these 2 are short, things like Plantar Fasciitis, knee pain, Achilles Tendonitis, knee pain, low back pain, and even neck pain can occur. These 2 muscles can cause a slow of the body movement and overall pain.

The amazing fact about the calf is how few people in the country actually stretch them. Most trainers, coaches, and physical therapists teach a calf by standing on a slant board, step, or leaning against the wall with one foot back. Unfortunately, these stretches never stretch the outside or inside calf muscle which leads to many foot problems that people suffer. By lengthening these 4 muscles, the ankle can be free to move through its full range. The scary thing is few people can actually move their ankle through the full range. I love to watch people walk. Too many use a short stride and will lead with the nose. This causes neck pain and low back stiffness. A person may feel they are taking longer strides and they are based on the ankle’s range of motion. However, if they are leading with their noses, chances are their stride is too short.

So how are the calves stretched? I would suggest getting a yoga strap, rope, or anything that does not stretch. Stretching with a stretchy band is strength training and the muscles will tighten. When I stretch my calves, I sit on the floor with my back against the wall. If you cannot sit on the floor, then sit in a hard-backed chair with an ottoman. The key is to have back support and not lean back.

Next, place the rope around the ball of one foot, gently pull the toes back towards the body. Hold the stretch for 3-5 seconds and repeat 8-10 times. A few things not to do. Do not pull hard enough to lift the heel off the floor or ottoman. Do not use the leg muscles to stretch, remember this is about letting go. Do not force the movement with strength as it will cause the muscles to go into strength training mode.

Next, rotate the foot to the right and repeat the stretch, holding 3-5 seconds and repeating 8-10 times. Finally, rotate the foot to the left and repeat the stretch. Now do the other foot so the body will be in balance.

Stretching is about letting go with the brain by relaxing the muscles and feeling the muscle extend gently. Forcing the stretch will only cause the muscles to tense up and not allow you to free up the muscle. I would do these every morning and evening for 2 weeks or until they feel looser. I would follow this up with practicing how to walk with a longer stride. in a future blog, I will discuss how best to increase the stride.

Check out my videos on my YouTube channel, The Muscle Repair Shop, and visit my website at http://www.musclerepairshop.com.

elbow pain, hand pain

Elbow Tendonitis, What is it?

Many of my clients come to see me with elbow tendonitis, or golfer’s elbow, or tennis elbow. They are all the same. The clients will usually be wearing some sort of an elbow band or brace thinking it will help their elbow. Some clients have even had injections to relieve the pain. It is very painful as I have had it myself. The problem with this thinking is, we are looking at the wrong place. This is symptom-based mentality when you think the spot of pain is the cause of pain. Unless it is a broken bone or a torn ligament or tendon, it is rarely at the spot of pain. It is best to remember that ligaments attach the bones together and tendons attach muscles to the skin of the bones. Also, tendons are like rubber bands, they can stretch out and go back to their original length. Ligaments are more like taffy, they can stretch out but will not go back to their original length.

There are 24 muscles in your forearm running from your elbow to your fingertips and there are 2 bones in the forearm. The forearm allows you to rotate, grip things, and wave with your hand. If you feel on the outside of your elbow, you will feel a bony knot which is on the end of the bone in your upper arm. Feel underneath, and you will feel another bony knot also on the end of the upper arm bone. These are important because this is where 5 muscles attach on each side that allows you to open and close your hand. It is the opening and closing of your hands that causes the elbow area to hurt. For instance, a golf swing requires you to grip your clubhead. This can cause the inside of the elbow to hurt. A backhand in tennis will cause the outside area of the elbow to hurt. There are many other things that can do the same thing. Something as simple as gripping your steering wheel, opening doors, painting, exercise, and stress if you hold stress in your hands. These muscles will get hard and pally pressure to the outside or inside of the joint. There are muscles in-between the forearm bones that, when hard, can reduce the rotating ability of the hand causing tenderness on the elbow as well.

The question is, how can you get rid of it? It is pretty simple when you think about. Every day I massage my forearms on my way home from the office because I use my hands all day. Now I am not talking about a little rub like you feel in a typical massage therapy session nor am I talking about digging down to the bone as in a deep tissue session. Use the pads of your thumbs and press in different spots on your forearm looking for sore spots, some people call them Trigger points, the bottom line is they are sore spots. Press down just enough for your brain to feel it, then breathe out allowing your brain to relax the muscle. Once it is relaxed, the pain will stop. Then move to another area and continue until the forearm is softer. Now, stand next to a table, place the palm of your hand flat on the table, and make sure the fingers are pointing behind you. Lean back gently while feeling a little pull up the forearm. More is not better so be gentle and breathe to release the muscles. Hold for 2 breaths and release. Holding for long periods of time will make it worse, not better. Next, bend the elbow and make a light fist. use the opposite hand and gently press down your hand feeling the stretch up the forearm and through the wrist. Remember to be gentle and not force the movement. Too much pressure on either stretch and the brain will fight with you and you will be strength training, not stretching. For the average person, doing these 2-3 times per week should be enough. If you use your hands a lot during your week, then I would suggest doing every day and maybe twice a day. This has kept my hands and arms from hurting in my practice.

To see videos of these and other stretches, go to my YouTube channel, The Muscle Repair Shop. You can leave comments here and on my Facebook and LinkedIn sites as well. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at butch@musclerepairshop.com and I will reply within 24 hours.

Back Pain, Foot pain

Golfer’s Ankles Affects your Distance

Every golfer practices to improve the mechanics of their swing, but what about the mechanics of your body?

When I have been on a golf course, I still see people placing one of their clubs behind their neck and twisting their backs. The thought is to loosen their back before playing. There are a few reasons why this doesn’t really work and I will touch on it here, but I want to get to the ankles and their importance to your swing. First, the twisting of the back seems weird as every golf pro teaches us to rotate around our spin like an axis. There should no serious twisting of the spine. Secondly, people who do this twisting, do it rather quickly, they are releasing the muscles with their brain, so they are actually strength training which will tighten the muscles they are trying to loosen. SO really this stretch is a non-golf stretch and it is not even a stretch to boot.

Now on to the ankles.   The rotation of the body during the golf swing comes from the inner thighs, inner calves, and outer calves. In my last post, I wrote about the inner thighs, so today I want to go into the calves and feet which the ankles control.

In your calves, you have 4 calf muscles. The inside calf controls the inside movement and lateral movement of the foot. The outside calf muscle controls the outside movement and lateral movement of the foot. Each of these muscles goes into the arch of your foot. Thee are muscles in your feet that run from your knee to your toes and controls the tops of your feet and the arch muscle, with a few others, that control the bottom of your feet. It is important to understand that in order to improve the distance on the ball.

If you stand barefoot and go through a practice swing, focusing on the feeling in the bottom of your feet, you will feel your weight shifting through the foot from inside to out on one and vice versa on the other.  This ability to work the muscles in your feet and calves is what gives the ankle the flexibility to increase your range of motion at the club head increasing your clubhead speed as the club addresses the ball. As you are going through your swing the inside calf muscle has to be able to release which will allow the outside calf muscle to pull which frees the ankle. The range of motion you have in your ankle, the more lubrication your body puts in the ankle joint.  This makes your swing easier with less effort, but more importantly, it increases the club head speed due to the increased range of motion.

The question is, how do you get there? Calf stretching is a very misunderstood part of the human body. You will see some people place their toes on a curb, slant board, or step to stretch their calves. Others will lean against the wall with their feet pushed away from the wall to stretch. These can be good for your Achilles Tendon, but they are not calf stretches. In fact, I would venture to say that 98% of Americans have never stretched their calves properly. You may feel your calves with the above stretches, but you are not stretching your calves. Let me explain.

In the above-mentioned stretches, you are, at best, stretching the lower end of the 2 middle calf muscles. As a golfer, this does not help you as your motion is about twisting. With the previous stretches mentioned, no one is stretching their inner and outer calf muscles and few trainers or therapists even talk about them. Some golfers will complain of back pain and their calves could be the problem. Short calves will force you to take shorter strides. This will cause you to walk with the nose out in front of your chest. Did you know that for every inch your head is in front of your chest, the pressure at the base of your neck doubles? When a human head is sitting on top of your shoulders it weighs between 10-12 lbs. 2 inches in front of your chest, it could weigh as much as 42 lbs.  I always joke with my clients that it depends on how large is their brain.

So how do you stretch your calves? You can sit on the floor with your back against the wall or if you cannot get on the floor, sit in a hard-backed chair with one foot on an ottoman with your leg straight. Place a yoga strap, rope, or anything that is not stretchy around the ball of your foot. Do not use your leg muscles. ONly use your arms and gently pull your toes back toward you feeling the stretch from start to finish. You should feel this behind your knee. Hold for 3-5 seconds and repeat 8-10 times.  On each stretch, breathe out and allow your brain time to let go of the muscle tension. Next, rotate your foot inward and repeat the stretch. Now you should feel it on the outside of your calf. Finally, rotate your foot to the outside and repeat the stretch. You should feel it on the inside of your calf.  This is also a great stretch for Plantar Fasciitis, we will discuss that in a later post.

The reason for the 3-5 seconds hold is to avoid the stretch reflex in your muscles which will happen due to the discomfort. If you pull too hard, you will build up your arms as your legs will fight with you instead of stretching your legs.  Do not overwork yourself. You do not need to force your muscles to stretch. I see too many people hurt themselves because they are trying to force the stretch. Relax, enjoy, and watch the distant of your ball increase as you free your body.

Back Pain, Foot pain, Knee Pain

Why Golfer’s Suffer With Back Pain

Many of my clients are golfers and I usually hear how their low back pain affects their golf game. I used to play golf and I remember from my golf lessons that when you are swinging the club, you want to keep your back straight and rotate using your legs to bring the clubhead around your body. Watch a pro golfer when they swing. The club head is usually around their back to the other side of their body. This gives them more range to increase clubhead speed as it approaches the ball. When we see an amateur golfer we see the clubhead go to about the middle of their back which limits the range of building the clubhead speed. We know they are older and not as flexible, but can they improve their flexibility?

As I watch golfers swing a club, I see that their inner and outer thighs along with their inner and outer calves is what allows them to have the maximum amount of clubhead range. When I see golfers workout and stretch, I rarely see any golfer work on these two areas of their body. On the local courses, I see golfers forcing their backs to do the work. The inner thighs and outer thigh control the pelvis and when they are short, the pelvis is tilted forward which cause the low back to tighten. The calves are what allows your weight to shift on your feet. Without this flexibility, the chances of damaging your knees are pretty high. There is a way to help you improve your flexibility for golf. I have started putting videos on my YouTube channel at, The Muscle Repair Shop, to help you. Currently, the calf stretches are there and if you follow the video, you can reduce your risk of knee injuries. We will soon have the thigh and inner thigh stretches uploaded. You can visit my website at http://www.musclerepairshop.com and contact me for additional videos to help your golf game.

I love when my golfing clients tell me they have reduced their scores by 4-5 strokes. The stretching will help you with distance and control. More importantly, you can play without pain.

Back Pain, Foot pain, Knee Pain, Neck Pain, Uncategorized

Are You Prepared for Old Age?

Recently I graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in Aging Sciences. I went back to school as an older student to improve my knowledge of the Aging process we all face. Aging Sciences has taken the place of Gerontology because Gerontology covered the aging process from 55 years old to death. Aging Sciences covers aging from birth to death. The most important thing I learned was that we are not prepared for what we will face as we age. Being my fifties, I have some time to improve, but for younger people, they can actually prevent themselves from many of the ailments that older people face today.

Our health care system is a symptom-based system which means it focuses mainly on solving the ache or pain with little regard towards the cause. When older people suffer from arthritis, back pain, or joint pain, we can offer drugs, braces, or surgery as a means to stop the pain. What we should be looking at are their diet and lifestyle. Unfortunately, even the doctors will say, ” at your age, what do you expect?” You should expect everything to work, however, you must be taught how to prevent these things from happening and most health care workers are not trained to teach you.

We know that inflammation can lead to heart disease, but did you know it can lead to arthritis, joint stiffness, and even back stiffness. Too many people are consuming processed foods, mainly carbohydrates, that convert into to simple sugars. These simple sugars can create inflammation throughout your body. Secondly, carbohydrates are the main portion of your diet can cause your body to burn sugars instead of fat which can lead to obesity. Just by simply reducing the number of bread, pasta, and eliminating most of the processed foods like pastries and doughnuts, you can reduce the harmful effects. Eating more vegetables like lettuce, kale, greens of different kinds will help to reduce the need to burn glucose(sugar). Remember to take baby steps to build a habit. Bad eating is a habit just like good eating. Never go cold turkey and deprive yourself as this is a recipe to fail. In 1996, I weighed 315 lbs. Over the next 18 months, I lost 105 lbs. without ever going on a diet. All I did was to learn new habits. It is not easy, but you can do it!

Lifestyle changes like taking brisk walks every day, choosing the stairs versus the elevator, and learning to relax are keys to reducing stress which can cause inflammation in the body as well. Meditation is a great way to reduce stress and bring your life back into calm. This can make you more productive and efficient. Little changes daily to your lifestyle will build a lifetime of good habits without too much pain. Part of my losing the 105 lbs., was beginning to walk around my 1 bedroom apartment because I did not have the energy to walk around my building. That is where I started.

These are small changes you can do every day. The younger you start, the more positive results you will have. In fact, many of the ailments older people suffer from today would simply be eliminated with these changes. This blog will continue to break down the choices you have so you can easily transition your life into a more healthy and fulfilling life. Please leave any comment you may have or suggestions as we will delve into aging from birth to death and how to prepare yourself for the aging process no matter where you are starting from.

Back Pain, hand pain, Neck Pain

Stretching is more Mental than Physical

Stretching is so misunderstood. If I were King, I would change the word to releasing. Stretching is about letting go of the tension in your muscles. This tension can come from thoughts throughout your day or physical activity. A Neurosurgeon once said to me, ” Ever seen a stressed guy look relaxed?” He’s correct when we are stressed we tighten every muscle in our body. When having a bad day you may hold more tension in your shoulders, hips, hands, or feet, but it is also throughout your body. This tension will cause compression on your bones, nerves, and blood vessels. The compression on your spine can lead to bulging discs, herniated discs, tingling down an extremity. An example would be bike riding. As a biker is hunched over the handlebar, the compression on his/her spine is increased as they are holding up their head. The muscles of the chest begin to contract as they steering their bike, again increasing compression. As the compression increases in the cervical spine (neck), it pinches the nerves going down to the hands causing tingling and numbness. By releasing the chest muscles and the muscles on the front of the neck, the pressure on the neck will release. Increasing the strength of your back muscles will only make it worse.

The compression on your joints will cause your joints to wear out leading to joint replacement and surgeries to treat the pain. Every joint have muscles crossing over them. As the muscles harden from working out, it reduces the spacing in the joints which will squeeze out the synovial fluid, a lubricant the body naturally puts in your joint. Left untreated, this compression can cause bursitis, which is telling you your joint is too close together, and later damage to the cartilage. By learning to stretch properly, you can relieve the pressure on your joints as well as the nerves and blood vessels. You don’t need to know the names of all your muscles, but understand how you work mechanically will reduce your risk of injury.

The biggest issue that people have when stretching is understanding how much of stretching is more mental than physical. If you pull your muscles too hard, massage too hard, or try to force the muscle to release, your brain will fight back in fear of you hurting yourself. Your brain will not let you hurt yourself unless you force it, which is crazy! Listen to your body and when you stretch, feel the stretch from start to finish. If you are tight, only hold the stretch for 3-5 seconds and repeat 8-10 times. Holding a stretch for a long period of time is fone if you are flexible, but if you are not, then stretching is about re-training your brain to believe you can actually do the stretch. Be safe and free your body!

Be sure to like my Facebook page, YouTube Channel, and my blog at solidconcretebody.com.